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Stillwater Valley tourism faces summer uncertainty after flooding

Absarokee Flooding.PNG
Posted at 7:50 AM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 09:50:36-04

ABSAROKEE — The flood waters that have ravaged the large portions of the state have receded but the effects on tourism may prove as costly as the repairs.

Tourism is the lifeblood of many small Montana towns. The beauty and adventure that many offer are a tremendous draw to people all across the country. The massive flooding has left towns like Absarokee with uncertainty for their generally prosperous months.

"Right now the phone's not ringing at all," said Matt Holtz, owner of Absaroka River Adventures in Absarokee, MT.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks has closed down the rivers as they continue to assess the damages and potential dangers that may still present themselves as the water levels return to normal. That leaves Absaroka River Adventures in a holding pattern and in turn affects the economy of the town of Absarokee as well.

"A day like today when we were supposed to have 80 customers, 40 of them were going to go to the grocery store across the street. 20 were going to go to the Dew Drop Inn, 20 to the Wildflower Cafe. So, even though we're just a little business, economically it hurts the whole town not being open," said Tim Hedin, head raft guide at Absaroka River Adventures.

Just down the road, Quaking Aspen Ranch, a venue for weddings and fly fishermen alike during the spring, summer and fall months was also affected. Flood waters took a massive toll on the property but major damage was amazingly avoided.

"There was a period of about 48 hours there where there was no sleep. Just mitigating the damage we could—we were super fortunate to not lose a single structure in this," said Judi Powers, owner of Quaking Aspen Ranch.

Despite the damage the town and venue suffered, Quaking Aspen Ranch is expected to be back on its feet soon. "The damage that was done was almost exclusively cosmetic...We're feeling very confident right now that we'll be able to host everybody without any problems," Powers said.

Hedin and Holtz are also optimistic about the rest of summer.

"I actually think July and August can be very busy months because people have that curiosity. They want to see what got destroyed and go see what the river looks like," said Hedin.

After what seemed like an insurmountable hurdle earlier in the week, the town of Absarokee may still have light at the end of the tunnel as the summer gets underway.